This is a true story about one woman, the Storyteller archetype and it’s power for both good and tragic. I came across it on a podcast recording from The Moth which is a not-for-profit storytelling organization.
When Nancy Finton was in her early 20’s she had a job as a bartender in New York City. She tells of riding the subway home late at night and walking along dark streets making up stories about how she would defeat any attacker who came her way. Sometimes she would walk with such belief in her own goodness that she imagined that no one would dare hurt her. She relates how these stories would make her feel safe and how they had seemingly worked as she had so far never been assaulted.
A few years later, she was living in Norway and was attacked when walking home from a bar late at night. She escaped the would-be rapist by talking to him, telling him that this was not what he wanted, not really, and asking him about himself. In trying to get his story from him, she disarmed him (figuratively) and got home safely.
A week later she heard a news report that a woman had been raped in the same place where she had been attacked. She had not reported her incident because she told herself (another story) that since she had not seen his face it was useless to report it. The truth was that she was embarrassed that she had taken such a risk walking home alone so late and she feared that the police would mock her. She was also feeling good about herself that her power to tell stories had again kept her safe. She admitted that what she had been telling herself had blinded her to the fact that it was not just her story. The story included others – including the girl who had been raped and who she could have possibly spared by stepping out of her story and taking the opportunity to report it.
There are several layers here that illuminate just how powerful the Storyteller archetype can be:
- She used the Storyteller archetype to feel confident and then when threatened, to distract her attacker.
- The Storyteller also kept her inside her own story and blinded her to the greater context of what happened.
In an act to relay how she herself got ‘storyfied’ (got caught up in her own story) the author chooses to share it via a medium that attracts other Storytellers. I have no way of knowing her real intentions, but it strikes me that her ability to communicate the whole story – including the crappy bits about her actions – has a curative power for her. Could it be catharsis? A cautionary tale? Maybe both. Either way it’s a powerful and real example of the Storyteller in action.
Films: Rod Taylor as Sean O’Casey in Young Cassidy; Laurence Harvey and Karl Boehm in The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm; Judy Davis as George Sand in Impromptu; Barbara Bel Geddes in I Remember Mama.
Fiction:Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad; Beloved by Toni Morrison; A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce.
Religion/Myth: Homer (combined history and mythology in the action adventures of the Odyssey and the Iliad); Blaise (Welsh storyteller who in Arthurian legend became Merlin’s scribe); Thamyris (Thracian minstrel who won so many contests that he challenged the Muses themselves, and in return for his presumption was struck blind).
Fairy Tales: Arabian Nights (Tales of Sheherezade)